Epic Arena is a free-to-play, turn-based title that lives up to its moniker. The gameplay is addictive from the jump, and you'll wile away your hours smashing and spell casting your way through the competition.

A select group of warriors will be at your disposal, and you will move them around the arena via a simple touch and tap mechanic. You'll start off with a select number of movements per turn, so how you position the fighters on the board in relation to your opposition is of utmost importance. The combatant who either kills all the enemies or destroys the opposition’s egg wins the match. Since you'll have your own egg to protect, having at least one member of your party hold down the fort is your best strategical bet.

Along with thinking a few steps ahead, knowing your party members' skill set is also a must, since arbitrarily moving your fighters in constant attack mode will invariably lead to a quick defeat. Archers are adept at long range combat, assassins perform a multi slash mode during in close quarters, and monks are best used to heal the wounded. Alchemists and dragons are best employed when your enemies are bunched together in a horrible formation. When the alchemists throw a destructive potion or the dragon breathes fire unto these scrunched in adversaries, they will take an excessive amount of damage if caught in the area of effect.

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Two single player campaigns are available from the get go, as you can choose to follow the Brotherhood of Order or the Legion of Chaos. The Brotherhood are essentially the good guys, as their task is to protect their Dragon’s egg from the Legion of Chaos. Although being on the side of good is a noble concept, you’ll have assassins and ogres fighting your wars if you pick the Legion of Chaos missions. If you love both sides, you can switch back and forth between campaigns.

Each team is generated by different power decks that get more varied as you move further into the game. The Order and Chaos Missions mode enables players to go on single player missions to accrue gold coins and blue crystals, and this currency is used for Epic Arena's marketplace. The most important purchases are new card decks to diversify your team's skill set. Thankfully, you’re able to purchase power decks after earning a few thousand in-game dollars which essentially translates into completing several missions, rather than plunking down any actual cash.

Epic Arena could have easily slapped gamers with premium decks from the get go, but enabling players to purchase a few upgrades within the beginning stages is one of huge reasons I'm enamored with this title. You’ll be able to earn your first card deck after accruing several thousand gold coins, and this will be the only real deck you’ll need to enjoy the game on a cursory level. If you plan to devote hours of your time to Epic Arena, the second deck will run you over 99,000 gold coins (or 449 crystals).

During the ranked online competitions (Blitz mode), you can message your adversary during the battle. This feature comes into good use if you want to expedite your battle and skip the instant replay feature. For example, if your enemy takes a few minutes to complete their five turns, the replay system displays how those moves were executed on your game board. To save yourself a bit of time, you can hit a "skip replay" button and immediately proceed to your turn after your enemy has entered his choices.

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The artwork, especially the beautiful drawings featured on the deck cards, is also a sight to behold. Each character and power skill is lovingly rendered within each card, and I've wasted ample time simply staring at a few of the pretty images or just enjoying the battle animations after each well thought out turn. A game's visual design is expected to give gamers a distinct picture of the world that's currently inhabiting their thoughts. Between arena excursions, I've spent ample time checking my personal card deck and wishing the tree of life existed in my neighborhood.

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With its mixture of turn-based strategy warfare and the trading card genre, Epic Arena is an inspired and consistently entertaining game that may keep you glued to your iOS device for hours. Very few free-to-play titles offer up a ton of gameplay and upgrades without asking for money within the half-hour of play, and for a at least a healthy amount of time you won't hit any kind of pay wall with Epic Arena.

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Epic Arena is one of my favorite iOS games this year. Addictive gameplay, an inspired visual design and a ridiculously fair freemium mechanic will keep me coming back for more. There are so many cards to gather and enemies to vanquish along my journey, and hopefully more app enthusiasts will join in on this uniquely epic experience.

This review was based on a download of Epic Arena for iOS.

App Store Link: Epic Arena for iPhone and iPad | By Travian Games GmbH I Price: Free | Version: 1.3 | 134 MB| Rating 9+

9.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating